Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Very Veggie New Year

To say this post is overdue is an understatement, and for that I apologize.

Where to start?  I suppose I will start with my recent mini-vacation to Baltimore (the one in Maryland that usually makes me sweat like 3 beastly men, only it is mid-winter right now).

I went to visit some long lost friends and stayed with Robyn, a fellow vegetarian who recently went vegan.  Since she's had her gall bladder out, she hasn't been able to eat dairy and other hard-to-process foods, thus the transition.  Dang gall bladders.

Anyhow, I ate better that weekend than I do most any other week(end) ever.  She is a fabulous cook and not at all as lazy as I am.  I usually cop-out and give in to the pre-made versions or just slap together a peanut butter sandwich.  At Robyn's place I had amazing chili, vegan cornbread, tofu scramble, fake chicken and dumplings, and gingerbread pancakes.  She still needs to send me the recipes (Ahem).  It was fabulous bumming around with a like-minded individual (and her little leprechaun, Collin, who at 1.5 years old will shovel tofu scramble in his mouth and then beg for yours).  We even found a book at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse all about animal ingredients.  It is both my savior and demise.  I ended up buying it at a discount bookstore at home, but we had a delicious vegan lunch at Red Emma's.  The book is Animal Ingredients A to Z.

We also met Claire at this wonderful little restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen.  I have been there with my parents and the atmosphere is earthy, relaxed, and delicious.  Everything is as local and fresh as possible, not to mention as organic as possible.  The chefs are great at accomodating all types of eaters, too (like Robyn and me).  It came out that I only eat humane certified eggs and the waiter went off on how fabulous the farm is that supplies the restaurant with eggs.  I probably would trust their eggs, but I ordered something vegan instead.  And then, right as we were about to leave, he brings over a bowl of the most beautiful eggs that had just come in from the farm to show us.

I've been ants-in-my-pants dancing around the kitchen wanting to cook all the time since I've gotten home, but I don't have the time, nor do I know what to make!

Next stop, California where Rachel and her fiance will fatten me up veggie-style.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy World Vegetarian Day

Happy World Vegetarian Day!  It is also the first day of Vegetarian Awareness Month.

With my work schedule and the fact that I am the sole care giver for the two little snots called dogs that I live with for about a week and a half, I didn't get to plan anything super special.  I had leftover seitan for lunch and vegetable spring rolls from the freezer for dinner.

Normally on an occasion such as this I would bake a batch of brownies or cookies.  I find great joy in finding any reason to bake, no matter how frivolous.

Today I had to settle for buying a couple of packages of cookies from Whole Foods to share with the office.  I figured by sticking vegan-friendly sugar under my co-workers' noses, that gave me a perfectly legitimate reason to send out a mass email wishing a Happy World Vegetarian Day (and thereby making everyone aware of the day and the idea).  Nobody complained and only 3 cookies were left by the time the work day was over.  One of the supervisors even said she'd have a vegetarian dinner in honor of the day.  Yippee!

And as I finish this short post, Meat and Potatoes begins on Food Network.  Let's change the channel...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me

Ten years ago today I became a vegetarian.  I don't know how I remember the exact date all these years but each August 28 I add another year to the record book.  Ten years is a milestone.  

I don't remember if it was my first and failed attempt at becoming a vegetarian when my brother said it, or when I transitioned slowly and did it successfully, but he once said that my attempt would be like when I decided I didn't like Diet Coke.  Briefly in my preteen years I decided I didn't like diet colas anymore and would only drink regular, sugar versions.  That was very short lived.  Ten years later I think back at my brother's comment and smile wide not only because I am still meat free, but I have been dairy-free for one year and pop-free (soda for you odd folk) for about two and a half years.  

Recently a co-worker at my new job made a comment about how much I've cut out of my diet--no meat, no dairy, no pop, etc.  I think back on it and realize that I have set many limits on myself but in doing so I have empowered myself and made myself feel much better physically and mentally.  Each element taken out of my diet was done so for well thought out reasons.  I don't just decide to quit something and chuck it out the window.  

The past ten years have been difficult, to put it lightly.  Learning to live without a major part of your diet that you were raised on is not done with a snap of the fingers, especially when that part seems so ingrained in your culture and traditions.  It's not just about adapting yourself, but trying to get those around you to adapt to you.  

Sitting here contemplating the last decade I am not only proud of myself, but I am gleaming with pride for my family and friends.  My friends took to the vegetarianism a little easier than the family, but my family has gone miles and miles.  Not only does everyone accept my diet, but they have even tried to understand why I do what I do and they are always trying to accommodate my needs.  I am most proud of my parents who have probably grown the most aside from myself.  They had to turn their thinking inside out, sometimes prepare two meals at dinner (even though I said I'd make my own), and always had an extra eye open to make sure I was doing this whole thing right and not becoming malnourished.  They had to learn to accept their daughter as different.  

I was planning a party at a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the city to celebrate, but scheduling so that enough people can make it is like beating yourself over the head with a frying pan.  It might not happen until the end of next month if it happens at all.  Tonight I may just indulge in a bowl of almond milk ice cream.  By myself.  And ponder. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fest My Face!

I should have written this several days ago, possibly more, but with a new job and seemingly swamped schedule (yet what have I actually done in the past few weeks?) I have not gotten around to putting one Festival of a weekend down-on-blog.

I can't even remember which weekend it was.  I'd have to look up the dates.

At any rate, that Saturday I went to the Renaissance Faire with a very good friend of mine and her buddy from Texas.  They were in for the week and, well, Ren Faires are fun.  I snuck in my bottle of water (sorry, I'm a bit anti-paying-several-dollars-for-bottled-water) and a Cliff bar since I wasn't sure what the food plans were and if there would be anything vegan-friendly there anyhow.  Unless you were in the Far East, I don't imagine very many vegans during the Renaissance period.  I watched Becca and Laura share stewed mushrooms, a turkey leg, and a brownie.  I got hungry at one point and had to venture off on my own to seek out sustenance.  The safest option seemed to be a plate full of tempura vegetables.  Freshly fried veggies on a hot and steamy day.  Mmmm.  They were delicious but I paid for it later.  The best find? Becca spotted a vegan-sugar-free-chocolate-chip-cookie at the bakery.  It was delicious, especially right on top of those veggies.

Sunday I struck out on my own to go to the Veggie Fest for the first time ever.  I earned myself a nice sunburn for forgetting my sunscreen and I didn't get to buy any t-shirts because I forgot to get cash.  Booo.  But I loaded up on fliers and samples (when available).  It would have been better had I not been dripping sweat.  There were more spirituality and yoga booths than I expected considering it was a vegetarian festival, not a spirituality festival.  I guess many people feel the two go hand in hand (and this is where I run into trouble trying to connect with other vegetarians in get-togethers and meet-ups).

Anyhow, guess who ended up getting toys from Veggie Fest?  That's right, the carnivorous dogs!  Pawdukes, a really great dog biscuit company (grain free, vegetarian, soy free), had a booth and they gave me some free samples since they didn't have any cookies small enough for my snots with them but I would have been a repeat customer.  And then I saw the squeaky toys they had for sale.  Perfect sized for my perfect brats!

I did buy myself a 1 year subscription to VegNews magazine.  Because I'm not behind on reading my other magazines already.  And because I don't already get Vegetarian Times.  VegNews is a vegan-only magazine.  I figure I could get some ideas and pointers.

Then I met up with a couple of buddies at Starbucks and had a soy-mocha-frappuccino.  I really need to rake in the stars to retain my Gold status next year!  (No, I don't have a problem...)

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Supper

That is what my mom has been calling it, considering we're all going to be on diets of some sort for the next year or so.

My brother finally proposed to his girlfriend of three years this past weekend and on Tuesday my parents and I went out to dinner with the happy couple and the fiance's parents.  Did I spell that correctly?  I never know.  Anyhow, my brother made the reservations and let us know a day in advance.

I decided, as I usually do, to check out the menu online and be well prepared.  I have found this makes the evening go far more smoothly because I foresee any kinks and issues that may arise before they actually happen.

This menu had a few things I thought I might be able to eat--salads without the cheese, the soup if it was made with a vegetable broth, and the spaghetti marinara if the sauce was dairy-free.  But soups and salads and noodles with marinara sauce can be pretty boring, especially when you're out celebrating your brother's engagement.  So, I decided to give the restaurant a call.  What if the cheese was already mixed into the salads, the soup had a chicken broth, and the marinara sauce had parmesan sprinkled in?  Better safe than sorry, right?  The glory of cliches.

The person who picked up was very bubbly and helpful.  She was actually going to put me on with the chef himself.  According to said person, several vegans had been in recently and the chef prepared something special for them.  Unfortunately the chef was on a conference call, but he told the girl I was talking to that all I had to do was talk to my server--vegans come into the restaurant all the time and there are several options of what he can do for me.

I hung up the phone with a big smile on my face.  I know chefs aim to please because that is how they get customers and thus make a living, but for some reason I felt as if this was out of the ordinary.  I expected something along the lines of "We can take meat or cheese of anything on the menu" or for the girl on the phone to suggest the salads, soup, or spaghetti marinara.  I was pumped!

Skip to the restaurant with everyone sitting around, giddy with excitement over the idea of an upcoming wedding.

And I ask the waiter about vegan options.

Waiter: You can order anything on the menu and the chef will make it without dairy for you.

Umm.  Okay.  That was nothing like what I was expecting to hear.  So I investigate the menu further while he gives us another moment and there is nothing on the menu other than those few options I listed before and meat, meat, and meat.

Waiter: Have you decided on something?

Me: Well, there's really nothing for me to choose from because everything is meat.  So if I asked you to take dairy out, you'd have to take meat out too and it would be a pile of nothing.

Waiter: Oh, you don't eat meat.

Me: No, I'm a vegan.  I don't eat meat, dairy, or eggs.

Waiter: Hmm.  What can we do.

(My mom is trying to talk over us through this and the waiter is paying no attention to her.)

Me: Can't you just have the chef make some pasta with vegetables in some olive oil or something?

Waiter: You could order (lists a bunch of nonsense) or the marinara, but I think that has dairy.

Me: Then I won't eat it.

Waiter: We could do pasta with vegetables.  Would you like that?

Me: That would be great...

And he proceeded to, in a more garbled way than I ever thought possible, figure out what vegetables to put with the pasta (broccoli and asparagus and seasonal veggies).

Mom: He just wanted to be the one to figure it out.

Yea, not impressive.

So when the food came out, mine was a plate of noodles with broccoli and asparagus tossed in olive oil, and a side of seasonal veggies.  Huh?  It tasted good.  Nothing spectacular.  The rest of the night the waiter tried to sprinkle wit into his service.

Part of me wants to contact the restaurant and tell them the story.  Part of me wonders what good this would do considering I was given a meal to satisfy my needs.  I just want the waiter to be on the same page as the rest of the staff and understand that when somebody says "the chef said there are several options" and "can you please ask the chef?" you should really go ask the chef.  What I really want to know is what those other vegans got to eat.

Now I'm hungry.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't Be Such a Baby

I've noticed over the years since becoming a vegetarian that I'm not as strong as I used to be.

I'm not talking physical prowess here, but stomach strength.  You know, the ability to sit through blood, guts, and gore and not flinch or feel acidity creeping up the back of your throat.  That kind of strength.

I used to be able to sit through the grossest of TV shows and movies.  I would watch marathons of Emergency Vets on Animal Planet, my eyes wide open during the surgery clips, dreaming of the day I'd be standing there saving the lives of animals.  Needless to say, I never went that route with my life.  I even went to see Saving Private Ryan at the movie theater, no the least bit sickened by the splaying of intestines, flying of limbs, and whatnot in the first scene.  Then I went home and had a hamburger for dinner.  I was strong.

Now I can't even read a graphic description without feeling at least a little bit queasy.  I just finished a book that described dissected bodies, bloodied and smashed up bodies post-fight, 1800s surgery patients, and I knew the grumbling in my stomach was not hunger.

This weakness has been a developing thing in my life and yet it still feels so alien, very unlike me.  I can stand the sight of blood and road kill simply makes me sad unless it's especially messy in which case I try not to look.  But these movies and TV shows and books.  What is wrong with me?

I can't help but wonder if it's the diet.  Does eating flesh harden a person to the ugliness?

Just some food for thought.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Holy Cow

Alright, so I don't think the cow is holy, but at the rate I talk about my dairy dilemma, you'd think there was something super-extra-special about the heifer.  I suppose how hard our culture has made it to take dairy out of one's diet does make a cow a little bit special.

Remember how I used to use the Kosher labels on packaged foods so much?  If it is labeled Kosher and parve, I have to look at the ingredients list to make sure eggs are not a component.  If it is labeled Kosher and dairy, it is off limits.

I believe once I mentioned the mystery of this dairy label.  Let me recap:
Not all kosher products labeled as dairy actually have dairy ingredients.  My parents and I did not understand this at all and it 1. frustrated my mother because I wouldn't eat these products anyhow not knowing why they were labeled as such and 2. frustrated me because I didn't understand the labeling and it limited my potential food pantry even further.

Recently my dad used his food industry ties to unravel the mystery which is actually not so mysterious at all.

Folks, it is simply the strict rules of kosher eating.  If a product is manufactured in the same facility as a dairy product, even if it has not even come close to touching that dairy product, this product must be labeled as dairy.  According to kosher law, it is dairy.  I'm not going to go into the laws of what makes something kosher, but it all started to make sense to me.

But then my mom, according to her logic, figured I should be eating all those labeled-but-not dairy products.  My logic told me she was right, but my gut told me it was still all wrong.  There was something about those products that was wrong.  After an awkward confrontation about brownies for a get-together, I was guilted into eating labeled-but-not brownies and chocolate chips.  They were delicious but I felt horrible.

I spilled my guts to Zach.  Even if Zach is not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, I can spill my guts to him about my food crises and he'll listen with almost as much understanding as a vegan, sometimes more than some vegetarians.  He'll also play devils advocate and deal me a good dose of his own meat-eating opinion.  It works out in the end.

So, what did Zach say?  He wanted to know why I was so worried about being like other vegans.  (It's not like I'm striving to be a strict, perfect vegan anyhow).  These products have not touched dairy.  Eating them does not promote the dairy industry (I thought about it a few days later and you could argue that it does in a semi-long-winded fashion, but you could also argue that the oil spill somehow promotes the dairy industry.  Everything is a chain reaction, no?)  By eating these products I am not saying "This product may contain milk, nom nom nom yummy!"

That one talk completely changed my perspective on the issue.  A strict vegan probably wouldn't buy one of those products for the fear that it might have TOUCHED dairy.  It's still not a dairy product itself in the common sense of what dairy is.  If you are allergic to dairy, it's probably not a good idea to buy these foods because dairy particles may have been floating in the air.  But for somebody who is not eating dairy for ethical reasons, this isn't eating a piece of cheese or drinking a glass of milk.  No cow was harmed in the packaging of this cereal.

Thank you, Zach.